Deplorable wine tasting notes! Subjective or objective?

Typical Fruit Salad of Wine Tasting

This post is about differing perceptions in wine appreciation and I did consider writing it as one of my jokey conversations between Buddha and The Two Doctors, but I realised that not everyone would get it. Get it? Oh well, I’ll carry on! But before we really get going, have a skim of these two tasting notes from a highly reputable wine magazine:

“Chardonnay from Meursault France, Wine Tasting Note: Clean, limpid medium yellow with a hint of green, quite rich, a really lovely colour. Touch of new wood on the nose, ripe melony fruit, slightly exotic, stylish and very expressive. Fine, floral, honeysuckle fruit on the palate, with hazelnut overtones, rich and quite buttery, yet good lemony acidity, very elegant but still young. Very good balance, oak and fruit well blended in, an excellent example of grape variety dominated by terroir, great persistence, very good future.”

“Medoc, Bordeaux France Wine Tasting note: Deep colour, velvety red, no real sign of ageing, still very youthful and firm berry fruits on the nose, heavily Cabernet in style, blackcurrant leaf, with a cedar wood / cigar box spice coming through, concentrated fragrance followed by rich fruit. Same concentrated, tightly knit fruit on the palate, wonderful ripeness, still showing youthful black currants and blackberries, firm backbone but ripe tannins, superb structure. Overall, a classic Medoc from a top chateau in a great vintage.”

Typical Fruit Salad of Wine Tasting

What do you think? Would you buy either of these wines based on the tasting notes? Or, perhaps more importantly, when you have your Friday night bottle of Prosecco with friends, or Sunday afternoon Barolo accompanying the roast lamb, is this how you mentally perceive a wine and describe it to the rest of the family? I know I don’t talk like this, but possibly quite disconcertingly I don’t even sense, perceive, or experience all those items in that fruit salad bingo listed in the tasting notes. I’m lucky if I even “smell/taste” ONE of those items. So what’s going on here, am I suffering from mild forms of Anosmia or Ageusia (More below) or am I just a wine tasting dunce in the eyes of the experts?


Now try this conversation between a wine sommelier and a customer in a restaurant: Credit Blog Your Wine

Customer: “What’s a good wine? Recommend a good wine to me!”

Sommelier: “Well, what do you like?”

Customer: “I just want YOUR recommendation on a good wine.”

Sommelier: “Ok…I think the Petrus is a good wine. It’s $3000 a bottle. Would you like one?”

Customer: “WHAT!?!? Are you crazy!?!?! Besides, I just want a glass!”

Sommelier: “Alright, here taste this…it’s a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. I love it. It’s a good wine.”

Customer: “Hmmmm, it’s ok, it’s not my favorite though….”

Sommelier: “But it’s a good wine. You wanted a good wine. MY recommendation on a good wine is this Cab Franc.”

Customer: “I’d like something with a little more fruit and not quite as dry.”

Sommelier: “So you asked for MY recommendation on a good wine…but you want more fruit and not as dry. Right, try this one then….it’s a Malbec from Argentina…”

Customer: “That’s not bad….did I mention I don’t drink red wine. I want it to be a white wine?”

Sommelier: <Proceeds to smash the customer over the head with the nearest decanter.>”

So what happened in that crazy conversation between a “professional advisor” and a customer? A lot depends on your view of so called “wine appreciation …….

“Wine appreciation: Is it objective or subjective, or maybe a bit of both? The stance taken often seems to be inconsistent, in that many critics and wine lovers will agree that it is totally subjective but then go on to say that they try to be as objective as possible.

• Subjective: existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought

• Objective: not influenced by personal feelings or prejudice; unbiased:

Actually, there is not necessarily an inconsistency. They could mean that it is completely a question of personal taste but that they try not to be influenced by factors other than the wine itself, by the label or the bottle shape, for example. In other words, objective is not always the opposite of subjective: It depends on which meaning you use for each word.”


To my mind (!) however, wine tasting, wine appreciation, wine writing …. is a battle of the senses, and the two armies of science and philosophy! Do our taste buds, nasal passage, neurons and synapses act like a complex Mass Spectrometer, objectively and consistently “detecting, measuring and evaluating” the chemical composition of a wine? Or are these signals whizzing around our “physical brain” filtered, interpreted and perceived by our “subjective mind” which takes the signals from the “Mass Spectrometer” and judges them based on our prior knowledge, past experience, likes/dislikes, mood, environment? Which means of course that what YOU taste in this wine may NOT be what I taste, or heaven forbid, what I taste in this wine TODAY may not be what I taste TOMORROW! Or, and it gets worse, what an EXPERT (!) tells me I should taste in this wine and the food it should pair with just doesn’t work for me. And that last point is the crux of it and should stop you from thinking, “hells bells who cares, I know what I like, a wine is a wine and so long as it’s cheap and cheerful” because an awful lot of wine is bought and poured away based on the sensory perceptions of professional wine tasters and writers.


First, a bit of objective science. Esters, Pyrazines, Terpenes, Thiols! These are some of the main chemical compounds found in wine that give the wine certain aromas that ARE ALSO FOUND in many fruits, flowers, herbs and spices. So, Butyl Acetate and Propyl Acetate are found in red apples and pears respectively, the difference between these two Esters being a single Carbon atom and three Hydrogen atoms; Next example, 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine is the chemical found in green peppers and responsible for the characteristic odour and it has an incredibly low odour threshold, meaning that its smell can be detected below the part per trillion level; another example, 4-thio-4-methylpentan-2-one is the chemical giving blackcurrant its particular odour, also with quite a low odour threshold but not as low as pyrazines.

I could go on, but the significance here is that Esters are found in wines made from Chardonnay, Pyrazines in Sauvignon Blanc, and Thiols in Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot based wines. Our brains detect SOME of these chemical compounds and we think … “Green Pepper …. kerching!” But of course we should be thinking “I’ve got 2- methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine here ….. anybody else got that too?” (Joke Danell!) These compounds are NOT the fruit etc actually in the wine, but compounds synthesised from and during the winemaking process, especially the fermentation phase when natural yeasts are converting sugars into alcohol, or to keep this theme going … converting the fructose and glucose from the grapes into ethanol! And, as mentioned above, some have very very low detection thresholds … below one part per trillion (ppt) which some of us definitely do NOT detect because we just don’t have the right equipment! So it comes back to personal perception as to whether I or you get the same aromas and flavours as whoever wrote those wine tasting notes with a fruit salad bingo section. And if having the right equipment wasn’t bad enough there’s the issue of our own psychology and philosophy to take into account too.


Now let’s continue with a bit of philosophy from 18th Century.

The eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant assumed that our minds can provide us with certainty of what the world is really like. But empiricist philosophers demonstrated that, because our knowledge of the external world comes to us through our senses, it is always, in a certain sense, uncertain. For example a strawberry is only red or sweet when it is observed through certain equipment—our eyes and our taste buds. However we know that some people with different taste buds may not experience it as sweet at all. So, Kant asked, what is a strawberry “in itself” that makes it appear red and sweet—or otherwise—when run through our sensory equipment? Now, we may think that science can tell us what a thing really is in itself, even if our senses can’t. But, when you think about it, science doesn’t really get us any closer to the strawberry-in-itself. It doesn’t actually help to say that a certain chemical makeup of the strawberry and a certain neurological makeup of a person combine to determine whether the strawberry appears sweet or tart—and that this chemical makeup is what the strawberry is “really” like in itself. What we mean by “a certain chemical makeup” is merely “the effect we observe when we run the strawberry through certain gizmos.” Running the strawberry through the gizmos merely tells us how a strawberry appears when it’s run through those gizmos, just as biting into one tells how us how one appears when it’s run past our taste buds.


I promised above to mention the Anosmia and Ageusia factors in wine appreciation. The first is the inability to perceive odour. A related term,hyposmia, refers to a decreased ability to smell whereas some people may be anosmic for one particular odour! Ageusia is the loss of taste functions of the tongue, particularly the inability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami, with hypogusia being partial loss. Of course these five flavour categories are exactly those quoted in many wine tasting notes.

“Back in 2008, Avery Gilbert (Avery Gilbert, What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life (Crown, New York; 2008), pp.233–34.) noted that more than 20 specific anosmias were known at the time, each one affecting up to 75 percent of the US population, and that these anosmias accounted for merely a fraction of the total variation in aroma perception.” “A well-documented example of a wine-related specific anosmia is that for rotundone, a sesquiterpene found in the essential oils of black pepper. If you have ever noticed that Syrah/Shiraz has a peppery note, that will be due to its presence also in the wine. On the other hand, if you haven’t noticed that peppery note, it is not hugely surprising, because researchers at the Australian Wine Research Institute found that approximately 20 percent of us have a specific anosmia for rotundone. In other words, one fifth of the population will have no idea what people are talking about when they say Shiraz is peppery. If you want the academic paper on this it’s here Anosmia and Rotundone

 


So, enough of science and philosophy ….. where the heck are we?

Well, all I can state here are personal views, opinions, thoughts and feelings. Here goes:

  • I personally find tasting notes written by professional wine journalists a complete waste of time as I don’t buy ANY wine based on the label or the fruit salad bingo descriptions!
  • The vast majority of bloggers bore most of us rigid with their “here’s what I drank last night and here’s my super tasting notes”. Often not telling us where they bought it from and how much it cost.
  • One mans meat is another mans poison, so you like a Shiraz with your steak, I like a Pinot Noir, and …… my daughter prefers a Chablis with hers …. what’s the point of food matching advice.
  • Try reading Tim Hanni’s book on wine and food matching and you’ll NEVER recommend ANY wine again!
  • Try reading about Anosmia and Ageusia generally, then specifically about wine tasting, and start to understand the angst of us poor sods who have no idea what kiwi, guava, mango, or any berry you care to mention actually taste like!
  • The best wine notes tell you about the vineyard, the terroir, the balance of the wine, and where it might fit in the spectrum of wines of that grape, vintage, style.
  • Tell me about acidity, tannin, minerality, fruitiness, ageing potential, and that’s all …… just as every winemaker I have ever met in France does.
  • If you’re trying to learn more about wine and understand more, have confidence, have faith in your OWN tastes. You know what you like, just experiment a bit, same grape different regions or countries, or different grape around the world, explore a whole country, don’t let anybody tell you what you SHOULD experience or taste. It’s YOUR gizmos the aroma and taste is passing through on their way to your brain, there may be some rotundone or pyrazines…. but who cares….. do you LIKE it.
  • If you’re a wine professional…. before you write those notes or give advice ….. think about your customer!

If ten people look at a cloud, there will be ten different perceptions of it. Whether it is perceived as a dog, a hammer, or a coat depends on our mind —our sadness, our memories, our anger. Our perceptions carry with them all the errors of subjectivity.

We cannot explain an orange to someone who has never tasted one. No matter how well we describe it, we cannot give someone else the direct experience. He has to taste it for himself.”

Thich Nhat Hanh (The Buddha’s Teaching)


24 thoughts on “Deplorable wine tasting notes! Subjective or objective?

  1. Incredibly interesting and thought provoking post! I’d rather know about the wine’s structure – body, acidity, tannins, etc. – then read a “fruit salad bingo” list (a term of yours I love!) That being said, I don’t see traditional tasting notes going away anytime soon. But would be nice if they were more relatable to the average consumer. (And Tim Hanni’s book is on my “to read” list . . . )

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    1. Hi, thank you so much for your much appreciated comment, I have been waiting for a blast from pro wine writers but it hasn’t arrived yet! I’ve written a rather long response to you and Danell’s comments (Vinthropology) underneath her last comment and didn’t want to paste it twice as it might antagonise readers even more 😂😂. Perhaps you could scroll down, or up, to find it, about my being influenced as a scientist and as a psychologist …. and posing you and Danell with a challenge. 🍷 Brian 👍

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      1. Well, as an ISTJ – I do love my facts and structure! Sorry for the delay, I was hit with the flu and wanted to be able to formulate a coherent response. Pour yourself a glass because it’s lengthy! 😉 Here goes . . .

        To Vinthropology’s point, there is a common structure for evaluating wine used by the WSET as well as the Court of Master Sommeliers. As a student of these organizations, we are required to prepare our tasting notes based on their format, within set parameters and using specific descriptors. For example, instead of saying this wine has crisp acidity I’d call it “medium + acidity”, or instead of using the term flabby I’d write “medium minus or low acidity.” Does this sound a bit clinical? Yes. But the goal is to have all students on the same page with their tasting notes, not to develop flowery language for them.

        However, even with a dedicated tasting note structure there is still going to be a degree of subjectivity. What’s medium plus to me, might not be medium plus to you (and Danell touches on this point as well). I’m particularly sensitive to alcohol, many wines taste “hot” to me and I can feel the heat on the back of my throat. Subjectively, I’d call the wine “medium plus alcohol.” But objectively, these wines probably possess an average abv% and most people wouldn’t find the heat too much. So, through tasting and education, I’ve calibrated my palate to WSET’s standards and factor my sensitivity to alcohol into my notes.

        Obviously, not everyone can or wants to do this. But, it’s a good starting point for having a common frame of reference for what certain descriptions mean.

        I do think a couple fruit/floral/herbal/whathaveyou descriptors in a tasting note are useful. For example, if I describe a white wine as having aromas/flavors of citrus and green apple, this likely leads one to expect it to be lighter and crisper than a white wine with aromas/flavors of peach nectar and tropical fruit. That being said, anything more than a couple of these types of descriptors are overkill IMO.

        Do you think that just saying “this white wine is light and crisp” is enough without the addition of fruits/floral/herbal qualities? For me, I think the addition of a few other descriptors makes the wine sounds more appealing and, frankly, describes the wine with more accuracy.

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        1. Thanks again, that must have taken a while.
          ISTJ ….. The Inspector! Introverted rather than Extroverted, Sensing rather than Intuiting, Thinking rather than Feeling, Judging rather than Perceiving. As you say, a very structured and facts driven person …… intimidating even!
          INTJ ….. The Mastermind, is my own profile, the N being the difference between us making me less factual and more intuitive in my thinking, especially being drawn to complex things and theories.
          The beauty of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is actually it’s simple structure, it is reductionist in nature with everyone reduced to 4 key aspects unlike the 16 of the 16PF or the 32 of the OPQ. It is easy to understand by the layman or “client” without needing an “expert” to interpret and advise.
          This is actually my point about wine tasting notes, having a structure containing information that can be understood by “the client” without deluging them with loads of detail. Professional psychologists tend not to deluge clients with all 32 aspects of their OPQ profile but to summarise them into 3 major clusters of Relationships with people, Thinking style, and Feelings/Emotions. So this raises the question about wine tasting notes …. “who is the client” or who are those notes written for? Think of wine labelling in the UK, mostly now there’s a Dry-Sweet scale on many supermarket bottles 1-10. Easy to understand and something I’ve seen many people seeking out on the shelves, surely easy to do a Tannin scale, Acidity scale, likewise? Who’s the client?

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        2. Sure, a tannin and/or acidity scale would give some valuable information to consumers – assuming they understood what these terms mean. If I had a nickel for everyone who when they said “dry” wine meant “tannic” . . .

          But even with these scales, I think descriptors like “floral & bright red fruit” or “tart cranberries and earthy” would describe the wine more accurately as these would help one differentiate between a Gamay and a Pinot Noir – both of which would rank very similarly on an acidity/tannin scale.

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  2. We took a tasting class in Rome two years ago. The Sommelier who ran it was a wonderfully knowledgeable about Italian wines and very generous with the bottles he kept pulling from the cellar so that we could taste the differences in vintages and how the aging process contributed to the flavor of the wine. I took copious notes…the funniest of which are in regards to a particularly unique bottle he shared around the table and then had a competition among the guests as to who could write the most ridiculous “tasting notes.” The winner was something along the lines of “Notes of my grandfather’s tobacco saturated breath after he has taken cough syrup. Floral hints of my grandmother’s perfume linger in the finish like they might linger on his collar.” 😀

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    1. Love it, hilarious and sounds like he had a sense of humour. Most sommelier and wine pros I have met in last 50 years don’t 🍷🍷 Appreciate your comment thank you

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  3. I like your concept of the fruit salad bingo. I think it’s funny and I can certainly see your point when you read some wine descriptions on Instagram with long lists of fruit that all sound really nice but seem like a stretch of the imagination. (I mean, these people must work in fruit shop to have the olfattive memory of all these fruits!) and your right in the sense that not everybody has that kind of sensitivity so it’s somewhat irrelevant. However, I do not consider the examples you gave at the beginning to be of this category. To me they sound like professional, well written notes that give me important information about the wine, like it’s age, structure and style. There is not a long list of fruit, but rather a category which allows me to discern for myself what individual notes I may perceive based on my perception. It is clear from the notes that the Chardonnay is a young wine with tropical fruit character that is balanced yet with a significant amount of acidity. The Medoc is also a young wine with concentrated aromas and flavours, a significant structure and aligns with what you would expect of Cabernet. This helps me know what to expect and to choose the wine based on the criteria of my preferences, when I plan to drink it, who I plan to drink it with, and what I want to drink it with.
    And yes, I do talk like this when I taste wine with other sommeliers, enthusiasts, and wine makers because it is an evaluation based on a series of parameters to dissect the individual components in the wine that create its unique expression, and the terminology used has the purpose of creating a language within these parameters that everyone can understand instead of relying on idiosyncratic descriptions. The purpose of having a template of parameters to describe a wine is to create a system, used for all wines, that avoids purely subjective judgement based on preference by providing criteria to quantify and qualify the characteristics of the wine within the context of all other wines. It is precisely this mechanism which allows me to discern that I may not LIKE this wine, but it is made well and has a certain character. So, while the purpose is to create a method to be more objective, it can not be avoided that some people’s intentions are affectatious in nature.
    Of course, if you have no direct experience of an aroma, you cannot recognise it when it meets your senses. That is why many sommeliers and enthusiasts have “aroma kits” with samples of common aromas in wine so that they may repeatedly smell them and incorporate them into their olfattive memories in order to be able to recognise them in wine. It is like a sort of training for the senses. The fact that a certain fruit or vegetable or flower has a certain volatile chemical, and that same volatile chemical is also found in wine, means that that volatile chemical is objectively part of the character of both. The fact that I have no direct experience of that aroma, or am not able to detect it amongst all the other aromas, is irrelevant. Some people will, some people won’t, nonetheless it is there. However, that isn’t very interesting to people who are not behind a mass spectrometer and doesn’t come close to the delight and enigma that drinking wine excites. Furthermore, a mass spectrometer may be able to tell us what individual volatile aromas there are in a wine, but it cannot perceive the interactions between all of them and the physiological associations we make, as we can. And that’s what makes wine such an interesting topic of conversation and beautiful experience for our senses.
    We ARE trapped within our subjectivity, but to fully rely on that alone, and to assert that there is no point in trying to do otherwise, no point in smelling and tasting a strawberry in order to know it better, no point in listening to the opinions of people who have spent so much time trying to understand the structure and composition of wine, where the only question you should ask is “Do I like it?”, is to diminish the appreciation of wine in all its complexity and magic.

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    1. The problem Danell is that tasting notes are written in a way that turn a lot of people AWAY from exploring or appreciating wine. We both know that a real majority of people are petrified of visiting a vineyard or even talking to a wine waiter for advice. The result …. “I’ll have a bottle of the house red and a glass of rose please!”. Last year we took two friends to Meursault for a week and walked them around a wine cooperative in Beaune and several small producer friends in Pommard, Volnay and Santenay. They were extremely nervous, but delighted with the way they were treated with respect, the way each wine was explained to them, the way the winemaking process was explained. They’re going back on their own this year!
      This is the reason for my extremism about tasting notes and wine professionals overall. Waiters and sommeliers don’t see themselves as marketeers or part of the bigger picture in my experience, which brings me back to those two descriptions in my post. You’re right, they are nowhere near the fruit salad bingo style of note, but they are written as a conversation between Jancis Robinson, Stephen Spurrier and Andrew Jefford and not aimed as we the uneducated! For myself, I understand them but rarely share the same experiences so what am I to do?

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      1. It’s unfortunate that the intimidation and inadequacy that people feel when reading tasting notes and dealing with sommeliers seems to be so prevalent and strongly felt as to turn people away from wine all together. At least your example shows that not all are evil, pretentious snobs. My experience in Italy has been positive as well since Italians tend to be warm, hospitable people and have a great sense of pride in their territory and culture, and sharing that with others. As I think is the case with many fields, when some people acquire expertise knowledge that many others don’t have, it gives them an inflated sense of importance and superiority, and if they subconsciously feel the need to compensate for some lack in themselves or seek validation from others, they find ample playing ground. That’s the only explanation I can give for this kind of negative phenomenon, besides also a desperate need to fit into a special “club”, but that’s more of a question for psychology. 😉 I would at least hope that there are equally enough genuinely passionate people in the wine business who are happy to share their knowledge with people who are genuinely curious. As for making wine more approachable and creating a discourse that allows for perceptive variability, it’s an interesting question without an easy solution. To my mind, I see two options: the first, we stick to the traditional methods of describing wine through a set of parameters that is applicable to all wines and is contextualised by it, as the most objective and informative way to approach the task, endeavouring to provide glossaries of terminology and avenues of wine education for the genuinely curious. (I return to my analogy with music). The second, we accept as many ways of describing wine as there are people to perceive it as valid in their own right, however “uneducated” or farcical they may be, with the hope of dismantling intimidation and creating avenues in which wine can be more relatable through creative expression. (I believe Tim Hanni is in favour of the second, page 14).

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        1. I’m beginning to think that my beliefs and opinions about wine appreciation and wine tasting notes are, in themselves, a reflection of my own education and experience. Obvious really, but bear with me!
          I was originally educated as a scientist, a PhD in chemistry moulded my outlook on many things especially in terms of structure, systems and a curiosity to get really, really underneath things and to have them explained fully and ….. objectively. But I gave up science and went back to university to study psychology, eventually becoming an organisational psychologist, someone who works on the culture, structure, systems of organisations large and small. In general I dislike the disorganised, the random, the unsystematic, and applying this to one area of psychology …. the assessment of personality, I was trained in using extremely structured instruments such as 16pf or OPQ based on trait theories, or Myers Briggs which are more based on type theories. These are the tools I would use if I had a client who wanted to understand how his board of directors was made up, or assessing applicants for promotion or appointment. In other words I had tools which were used to explain someone else’s make up to a NON psychologist. However quite often I had to understand people or things for a wider view, getting deeper than using questionnaires based on a recognised structure, maybe discussing corporate culture with 100 employees, and this needed something different, something that a non psychologist wouldn’t even begin to understand, something “loose and floppy” where questions were asked, answers probed and built on, views challenged with evidence sought. Such a technique uses Personal Construct Theory for example, an approach which is based on all human beings seeing their world as a set of “bipolar constructs” ……. warm-cold, friendly-aggressive, welcoming-excluding, achieving-avoiding, driven-relaxed, these are all MY constructs of how I might describe a specific corporate culture, but 100 employees might have 100 different constructs for the same culture, their perception of their world. I would use this technique for my own analysis, not for the layman, non psychologist because they wouldn’t even begin to understand what I was doing, how I was doing it, or where it might lead. But I could use it to understand those 100 employees views.
          So, two types of technique, one to help clients understand something or someone, and a different one to help other professionals understand something or someone. But BOTH being relatively structured, organised and systematic.
          So back to wine. Wine tasting notes seem mostly to be written by professionals wanting to impress each other, or wine wannabes who would like to be seen as professionals, and the blogosphere is full of them! I stress here that there is NOTHING wrong with that, but these notes do NOT help the poor sodding customers! I agree with what was said in a comment by outwines, why can’t we have a common structure for wine notes, written in a particular way to a common structure (such as my psychological assessments with 16 items in the 16pf, or 4 items in the Myers Briggs.) It could make for an interesting challenge to a WSET student for example …. even as part of curriculum …. with sweetness, acidity, tannin, fruitiness, complexity, finish and longevity being the primary factors in ALL descriptions used for the general public? It shouldn’t be beyond the capability of outwines.blog or vinthropology.wordpress.com to create such a structure, collaborate in testing it out wine wines and friends and clients before publishing it? But spare me the fruit salad bingo ….. please …… I’m a simple psychologist!

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        2. You gave an interesting example with psychology, and I imagine you would run into a lot of grey areas dealing with the mind, the subconscious, attitudes and behaviours. As to a better alternative for wine descriptions that the general public can understand, I really don’t know. The fact is that a relatively common structure for evaluating a wine does exist in the tasting sheets of different organisations. How those notes are interpreted into a written descriptions rather than list of terms is necessarily a question of personal style. I think even sticking to sweetness/acidity/tannin/fruitiness/complexity etc. does not avoid subjectivity as, while people are probably more familiar with taste than with smell, there are still varying levels of perceptiveness from one person to the other. One safeguard is that the different characteristics of the wine should be quantified in relation to the type of wine and wine in general. So while I may have a high sensibility to tannin, I would still quantify it in relation to the tannins I perceive in other wines. In that way, you and I may perceive tannins at varying levels of intensity however our point of reference for quantifying it is the same. (I hope I explained that clearly?). Another thing to point out is that the aromas in wine is just a small factor of the evaluation as a whole, and not even the most important one, but for some reason it seems to hog the limelight (maybe because it IS more relatable, or simply because it makes people feel important). Let me briefly give you an example of the parameters I use: VISUAL: limpidity, colour, fluidity, OLFATTIVE: intensity, complexity, quality, description of aromas, TASTE: sweetness, alcohol, softness, acidity, tannin, sapidity, structure, balance, intensity, persistence, quality, description of flavours, evolutionary state, overall harmony.

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  4. I don’t like Led Zeppelin. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is crazy about them and thinks they are one of the greatest bands ever, if not the greatest. He grew up in a musical household with friends and family playing the guitar, the piano and singing. He started piano lessons at the age of four and continues to play today. He played in rock cover bands as a teenager. His father took him to concerts of Bach, Chopin, Mozart, etc. Seeing his passion for music and not understanding what makes Led Zeppelin so great to him, I asked him to tell me about it. He let me listen to the individual instruments first on their own, and then all together, explaining how only three instruments could create a complex harmony that is as full as an orchestra. He then told me about polyphonics and the mathematics behind creating harmony in classical music and how Beechtoven could compose music even though he was deaf because he understood the logic behind it. I like music, but knowing nothing about it’s structure, logic and the individual parts that work together to create the complessive whole, I only listen to the whole and base my judgement on my own personal preference. My boyfriend hears something very different when he listens to music, and hearing him talk about it opened a whole new complex and intricate world I never knew existed which enriched my appreciation. It is clear to me that his judgment and perception of music goes beyond personal preference as he is able to dissect it, contemplate its structure, enjoy the interplay of melody, harmony and rhythm, in ways that I don’t understand because I have never studied it and don’t have the awareness of it that he has. But just because I don’t understand it, nor have the techniques to listen to it with that kind of awareness, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. While anything that is perceived by the senses is necessarily subjective, having some kind of map or key to read it increases one’s appreciation.

    Now, for your post….

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  5. I don’t like wine tasting notes, they always make me feel inadequate when I can’t find the aromas or the tastes they suggest I should identify. Much beyond Apple and Vanilla and I am struggling. I just like a big beefy red wine with whatever I am drinking so long as it is in my favourite cracked jug.

    Seriously, this is a really good post and I enjoyed reading it.

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    1. Thanks Andrew, I may be a collector and have a wide experience of wine but the snobbish pretentiousness of waiters and writers gets right up my nose. I struggle to experience what some of these people write about in terms of taste, and I think many of them don’t realise they are making folks feel inadequate. But I love baiting them, because I do have a wide and deep knowledge of grapes, regions, vintages but without the ability to taste or detect specific chemicals …… because that’s what they are, not fruits, berries, herbs. It’s all bollox! It took me about a month to write that post …….. it could have been book length 😂😂😂

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  6. Despite living in France for 14 years, I still haven’t learned much about wine. For me it’s all about whether I like it or not. It’s never about the price though it’s rare I drink anything really expensive (Euros 40+). I find sommeliers in restaurants here to be really knowledgable and they’ll recommend wines I love both from the perspective of taste (and wallet) after a detailed discussion. Likewise the owners of wine shops.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree with you entirely about sommeliers in France, they are not just doing a job, they are passionate about their wines. They have an advantage though with a majority of wines on their list being “local”, which I always stick to anyway …..
      Chablis in Chablis, Pommard in Burgundy, Chateauneuf in the Rhône etc etc. You will always get honest answers and they try to meet your needs. But, and it’s a big but and the real essence of my post, choose a wine variety you LIKE for the meal and ask the waiter for a good example of that variety. What part of France are you in, vineyards nearby to visit?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I live on the Cote d’Azur so our local wines are from Bellet (Nice) or the Var, much of which are rose. I always try to drink “local” to expand my limited knowledge.

        Liked by 1 person

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